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Asia300

India shares fall from near-two-year highs as ITC, HDFC Bank decline

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Indian shares fell Thursday, retreating from near-two-year highs, as investors sold some index heavyweight stocks to take profits from the record high prices hit last month.

The benchmark BSE Sensex declined 0.5%, or 144.70 points, to 28,839.79, while the broader NSE Nifty 50 index ended 0.5% lower, or 46.05 points, at 8,899.75 points. The indices had gained 0.6% and 0.5% in intraday trade to hit their highest levels since Mar. 2015.

Cigarette and consumer goods maker ITC fell 1.5% to 264.55 rupees, reversing part of the 2.5% gain in the previous session. HDFC Bank, India's biggest lender by market value, declined 0.7% to 1,379.55 rupees. These stocks had hit a record high of 291.95 rupees and 1,450 rupees in February.

"Overbought market situation and strong technical resistance at the 9,000 level for the Nifty pulled the indices gradually lower," said Jayant Manglik, president for retail distribution at Religare Securities. "Going ahead a sharp downside for the market seems capped, but stocks may witness volatile swings as a consolidation phase sets in."

Indian stocks have rallied more than 8% so far this year, helped by strong global markets, better-than-expected quarterly earnings and a growth supportive federal budget for the next financial year announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

Twenty two of the 30 Sensex constituents ended lower, while overall on the BSE, declining issues beat advancing ones 1,930 to 957 and 157 issues were unchanged.

Banks, which outperformed Wednesday, were among the top losers on Thursday. Axis Bank declined 1.4% to 506.30 rupees and State Bank of India, the country's biggest lender, finished 1.8% lower at 267 rupees.

Automobile stocks gained after data showed some of the companies improved their sales in February. The Nifty Auto index gained 0.4%. Tata Motors rose 2.7% to 461.05 rupees after February total auto sales rose nearly 2% on-year at 47,573 units.

Two-wheeler makers Hero MotoCorp gained 1.4% to 3,227.55 rupees, while rival Bajaj Auto ended 2.1% higher at 2,831.80 rupees. Hero's February sales stood at 524,766 units, while Bajaj sold 273,513 units, higher than 487,088 units and 241,917 units they sold in January.

"Overall the February auto sales numbers indicate that the domestic auto industry is showing traits of strong recovery," said Shrikant Akolkar, an analyst at Angel Broking. "Passenger vehicle segment has shown resilience, while the two-wheeler industry remains on a path to strong recovery."

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended up 0.9%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.2%. China's Shanghai Composite index fell 0.5% and South Korea's Kospi index ended up 0.5%.

--Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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